Don't look now, but Geoff Dawson and Peter Bayne are fast becoming major players in the D.C. nightlife scene.
The partners behind Penn Social near Verizon Center, Highline RxR in Crystal City, Big Chief in Ivy City and the forthcoming Smoked and Stacked in the Washington Convention Center have yet another project on the boards: a 6,000-square-foot American beer hall in the Manhattan Laundry building on Florida Avenue NW. Dubbed Franklin Hall, the project will feature a 50-foot bar, two lounges, large communal tables, two fireplaces, 20-plus beers on draft and a small menu featuring sausages from Ripple chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley.
Franklin Hall will essentially be divided in two, Bayne says. Beer on one side, food on the other. You'll probably stand in line for one or the other (or both). You'll then sit at communal tables built from reclaimed barn wood. There will be retractable screens on which the owners will broadcast major sporting events, but otherwise the screens will be rolled up tight. It's all part of Dawson and Bayne's scheme to get customers to, you know, actually talk to one another — and not stare at a TV all night.
"What's cool about it is that it forces interactions," Bayne says about Franklin Hall, named for both Ben Franklin (a lover of beer and cider) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (who was president when Prohibition was repealed). "It's a community-driven space where you can meet other people in your neighborhood."
The bar will be located at 1346 Florida Ave. NW, in a building that was erected in 1877. It was previously home to a streetcar company, a printing plant and a laundry. Given its connection to the District's old streetcar era, the owners originally considered creating a "transit theme" inside Franklin Hall. Then they remembered how much people bad-mouth Metro and quickly dropped the idea.
Dawson and Bayne first approached Meek-Bradley, a recent contestant on Bravo's "Top Chef," about supplying chef-driven products for their bars. That conversation eventually led to a partnership that will realize Meek-Bradley's dream of opening a pastrami shop, Smoked and Stacked, which Dawson and Bayne are backing.
"We found a happy medium," Meek-Bradley says. "I will be focusing on sandwiches at the shop but provide sausages for some of their other bars. It is great because I have an awesome kitchen with plenty of room to do production."
Incidentally, the opening of Smoked and Stacked has been pushed back until early September. Franklin Hall is expected to open in the fall.